This is an illustration I’ve used before to plant a seed in the minds of non-believers. It’s not new and it’s not original. I have seen similar illustrations to this one before. This illustration uses logic, reason and empirical information. I present it in a non-threatening, conversational way. I want to remove any shred of condescension or holier-than-thou thinking my listener might perceive from my attitude. I want them to feel comfortable with me, and not threatened in any way. Like we’re just chatting over a cup of coffee.
I like this because all you need is any piece of paper or a napkin and something to write with. Another thing I like is the sheer simplicity of the presentation.
The first thing I do is draw an oval.
My patter goes something like this:
“This shape I’m drawing represents all the information in the universe. Anything and everything that can possibly be known. Anything from Science or Chemistry or Physics, or History, Astronomy, Mathematics, Biology and so on”
The next thing I do is draw a tiny circle in the big oval.
Then my patter goes something like this:
“This circle represents all I know of all there is to know. For instance, I know my mom and dad named me Steven. I know for a fact that CO2 is the chemical symbol for salt. I know two-plus-two-equals four. I know you can’t place a square peg in a round hole. I know oil and water separate when you pour them together in a glass. I know I can’t play the trombone. I know if I drop a baseball from the roof of a building it will hit the ground.”
I try to make this part light and conversational. I try to come across as not knowing a lot for certain (because we don’t outside the spiritual realm. But we don’t want to go there with this illustration). Don’t mention anything that could raise any doubt about its veracity. No beliefs. No opinions. Just straight, empirical facts.
The next thing I do is draw a blank oval next to or under mine.
Then my patter goes something like this:
“Now, would you draw a circle in the big oval that represents everything you know for sure. Know that you know that you know. Your circle will probably be a lot bigger than mine.”
Then I give them the pen or pencil and wait. I don’t talk, I don’t clarify, I don’t explain. I wait. They usually draw a circle.
Then my patter goes something like this: Summarize the illustration for them.
“So, this first oval with my circle in it represents anything and everything I know for sure. And this oval (point to their circle in the oval) represents everything in the universe that YOU know for sure.”
Then I look at both ovals in silence for a moment.
Then my patter goes something like this:
“Gee, there sure is a lot of stuff in both our circles that we don’t know for sure, isn’t there (say it like it’s a statement, not a question)?
Let me ask you a question. Of all the stuff out there that you admit you don’t know, can you say for sure God is not out there somewhere?”
Wait in silence for them to respond. Whatever they say, I follow their response with this patter:
“Okay, let’s say you’re right. In the circle you drew in the oval is the indisputable fact that God does not exist. we live, we die, we turn into worm food. That’s it. The end.
I believe that God does exist and that I have a personal relationship with Him and that when I die, I’m going to live with Him forever in heaven.
“Let me ask you a question. If you’re right, what have I lost?”
Then here’s the clincher:
“What if I’m right? What have YOU lost?
Wait for a response.
“Would it be fair to say that neither of us can say for sure that God exists somewhere outside the circles that represent everything we know, have known or will ever know for sure?”
(Of course I know for sure, but I don’t say that.) This is not a debate or a platform to share your testimony. It’s an illustration to plant a seed in the heart and mind of a person who does not believe in God.) Wait for the person to answer.
Whatever the response from the person is, close with this statement:
“Eternity is a long time to be wrong.”
Will the person you share this with drop to their knees and accept the Lord right there and then? Probably not. But praise God if they did! They may not be moved by this story. They may never accept the Lord. But you will plant a seed and they will never forget the illustration.
6 thoughts on “Illustration For Planting A Seed With Non-Believers”
It takes many quarry blasts and sledge hammers to release the treasure within the earth/rock, and it usually takes very many ‘jolts’ to penetrate a human mind/heart with thoughts of a living God.
We are responsible to keep sowing the Seed, and we may be privileged to water it and fertilise it and even to harvest it – but we must always remember it is ONLY the work of Holy Spirit to convict and to give faith and understanding.
Let us be faithful to plant the Seed whenever we can, using illustrations like the one you presented here, or just a few words, and follow it with private prayer, that God will convict, and maybe even give us further opportunities with the same person.
Excellent comments. And, yes, I agree with you. Planting seeds. Planting seeds. Planting seeds.
Agreed! Thanks for your comments.
“Souls are won one friendship at a time”. I love this illustration, thanks so much for sharing it.
This is soooo good. It is so sad that so many people would love to jump on a post like this and tear it to shreds… the sad thing is that there are so many people out there like that. But if you say you are sad for them, they take it as condescending. Just as we might take it as an insult when a friend at work (we view ourselves BOTH as believers) tries to keep giving me her Watch Tower magazines. She truly believes that I am lost. And I have my own beliefs about her organization. Not sure lost would be the right word? Perhaps misdirected? Anyway, I got myself caught up in a discussion on Yelp once. Funny, I thought Yelp was just a place for reviews but I asked a question about a Los Angeles location and got a lot of replies and a lot of friend requests so I hung out in the conversations there for a while and of course got myself in one where the topic was God. I was saddened by the anger there. The majority made fun of the one or two of us who believed. It was sad and oh by you better not say you were sad. I showed my daughter the thread and she looked at me and asked: “Mama, do you think they care what you are saying? Why are you wasting your time here?” I kind of felt ridiculous when she snapped me out of it. LOL. But I guess I thought I could plant a seed!!! I wish I had used your analogy. But I will tuck it away for another day. Cuzzzz I will always risk feeling a little pathetic if I can plant a seed. I like your approach though…. not expecting anything but offering a lifetime memory of a perfect illustration. Thank you!!!!
Di, thank you for such a wonderful response. I’ve had several similar encounters. Unfortunately, and sadly, the conversations and chats I’ve had with non-believers left me thinking how angry they were. It was almost as if they felt like they HAD to put me down to feel better about themselves and their lack of belief. I felt their anger and, yes, Their responses seem filled with hate and disgust to me.
Some people just won’t be swayed. I believe God will draw all His children to Himself. I’m convinced we won’t plant many seeds in people whose hearts have not been prepared by God to nurture the seeds we plant.
Here’s another thought I’m going to share in another blog soon: I feel very strongly that the church bears lots of the responsibility for driving people away from God rather than drawing them to Him. I am beginning to cultivate some sense that maybe we’re wasting lots of our time and God’s resources inviting people to church. Down here in the South it’s almost axiomatic that when many church goers meet a stranger or new person in town, they invite them to their church.
God is showing me that my best evangelism tool is friendship, as I shared in another blog. Just like the pastor in my post Monday, “He didn’t invite her to church” he and his wife befriended her and God eventually drew her unto Himself.
I have started praying now about who to share the Gospel with and how. God is also showing me the truth in this statement: “Sermons are great tools for evangelism. Some of them even have words.”
I believe the church will do a much better job of drawing people to God by the way they live.
Thank you again, Di. God bless. And keep planting seeds.